European settlers who came to the New World in search of a better life ended up enduring many challenges and hardships. After its founding in 1607, Jamestown eventually became home to thousands of people who tried to create a new society in a new land (Corbett et al. 56). Jamestown’s history was not without its setbacks, however. When the first commander, Captain John Smith, left Jamestown, the settlement was plunged into almost a decade of chaos.
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Commanders and leaders could not reach an agreement, and the residents of Jamestown, who suffered from hunger, disease, and violent attacks by local tribes, constantly challenged their leaders’ authority. Recognizing that change was needed, Sir Edwin Sandys took steps to improve the situation, ensuring the survival and further development of the settlement for years ahead.
One of Sandys’s major contributions to the survival of Jamestown was the abolishment of the Laws Divine, Moral and Martial and the establishment of Common Law in the new territories. These novel legal relationships were necessary for the normalization of interactions among the members of the community (Gaskill 52). Legal cases were heard, resulting in decisions based on Common Law, which brought critically needed order.
Importantly, the governors of the settlement received the right to incorporate the particular characteristics of the territories into the legislative domain. The establishment of the House of Burgesses ensured that the new body could enact laws that would benefit the colony. The election of members of the assembly helped many residents view the House of Burgesses as an authority that would address the needs of all the people of Virginia. This body also served as a basis for the future legislative culture of the country that appeared over a century later.
Another important contribution comprised Sandys’s successful efforts to increase the population of Jamestown. Among these, Sandys introduced the so-called headright that provided land to people coming to the New World.
Those who had come to the continent before 1616 were given 100 acres, while people who settled after 1616 obtained 50 acres (Gaskill 52). This policy clearly motivated many poor people to accept such a generous invitation despite the dangers of travel and life in Virginia at the time. Moreover, a man who traveled to Jamestown with a wife and three children could receive 250 acres, an enticement for families having no land of their own in their homeland (Gaskill 52). It is also remarkable that Sandys tried to encourage people from different backgrounds to settle in Virginia rather than focusing his efforts on nobles and servants who could hardly farm effectively and survive.
In addition, Sir Edwin Sandys paid significant attention to the settlers’ relationships with the local people. He tried to create a biracial community through trade and even encouraged biracial marriages (Gaskill 54). In some respects, this effort proved successful as the interactions of Native peoples and settlers helped the Europeans to survive. Nevertheless, many local tribes held a negative view of the rapid expansion of newcomers.
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For example, Opechancanough, a chief in the Powhatan Confederacy, tried to stop the growth of the colonists’ settlements. Thus, in 1622, the Confederacy attacked Jamestown unexpectedly and violently (Gaskill 54). Several hundred men, women, and children were killed, causing a considerable shock among the Europeans living in Virginia and England. The attack represented the beginning of a war that lasted for a decade, ending in a peace agreement that was hardly acceptable to either party.
The war with the local peoples and its devastating aftermath was a major reason for the fall of the Virginia Company. King James, I came to a decision to dissolve the company following months of consideration and discussion (Gaskill 54).
However, other reasons for this outcome also bear mentioning. The relationships with native tribes—or rather, the inability of the parties to come to terms—led to various conflicts that exerted a negative impact on the development of the settlement. Moreover, the high rate of deaths among settlers accompanied by unprecedented embezzlement led to unacceptable costs. Nevertheless, the end of the company did not mean the end of Jamestown; the settlement continued to grow, enticing thousands of people to come and find a better life.
In conclusion, the history of Jamestown is illustrative in terms of the history of the continent’s colonization by European settlers. Newcomers were required to address various challenges, and in fact, most of the first Europeans who founded Jamestown and lived there during the settlement’s early decades died in the endeavor. However, the commitment of the colonists, as well as wise decisions made by such people as Sir Edwin Sandys, contributed greatly to the development of the colony. The establishment of proper legislative power and enactment of such laws as headlights became the foundations for future growth, motivating additional families and individuals to emigrate to the New World.
Although the settlers endured a harsh environment and were required to defend themselves in the face of numerous attacks, they remained in Virginia and continued to build a new society. Of course, this development came at a high cost, especially for the local peoples who eventually lost their lands. However, the Europeans without a doubt transformed life on the continent through their efforts.
Corbett, P. Scott, et al. U.S. History. Openstax, 2017.
Gaskill, Malcolm. Between Two Worlds. Basic Books, 2014.